Andretti prepares Hunter-Reay, Veach Indy cars at Toronto
Like setting up at a temporary street circuit, finalizing an IndyCar schedule is complicated. | Photo: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

The individuals behind the creation of a Verizon IndyCar Series calendar will never be seen signing autographs at the racetrack but Mark Miles and his INDYCAR colleagues make an impact on a more macro scale.

While consistency has been the focus rather than excitement over new venues during IndyCar schedule announcements in recent years, a hybrid of those narratives is the case for 2019.

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has been reinstated as the finale after a lengthy break from top-tier open-wheel racing and Circuit of The Americas features on IndyCar’s 2019 schedule as a venue where competitive laps have never been turned by Indy cars — all among 15 returning events.

Joined by COTA Founder and Chairman Bobby Epstein to speak with the media in a teleconference Tuesday, Miles used the full reveal of next year’s calendar as an occasion to explain the inner workings of putting a schedule together.

“One of the toughest things for sanctioning bodies to do, folks who run the leagues in any sport, is to make the schedule,” Miles began. “There’s so many different considerations.

“It starts with the league’s desire to have the strongest possible events where events are compelling and dominant in the market where you compete and capable of making national news and achieving television and media ratings.”

Mark Miles speaking at Detroit Auto Show
Mark Miles speaks during the unveiling of the universal aero kit at the 2018 North American International Auto Show. | Photo: Joe Skibinski / INDYCAR

Where garnering strong viewership is a macro goal like creating the schedule itself, the goal of fully serving the needs of each individual event forces INDYCAR and all parties involved to zero in on specifics.

“You quickly get all the considerations from the promoter; what works most years in a place might not work in a given year because they host a major event they get from time to time, or there’s another local event to comes in that folks have to sort out. You have to marry those considerations with the optimal television schedule, the concerns of your broadcasters — all that.

“We will always be looking on the margins to improve the reach and strength of our series through its schedule while taking care of all those other considerations at the same time.

“It’s kind of an alchemy, it takes a lot of communication. You almost never can deal with a track on a bilateral basis between just you and them. If they need to make a change, it has a domino effect on others.”

INDYCAR leaves preparation of race cars, key components of each event, to its entrants but devotes much of its time to maintaining healthy events — the key components of a season.

Strong Events Preferred Over New Ones

Highlighting the work of INDYCAR Vice President of Promotor Relations Stephen Starks, Miles reminded those on the media teleconference of the sanctioning body’s position on the quality versus quantity spectrum.

“You know our philosophy: We’re not looking to grow the number (of events) at this point,” Miles said.

“We think (the schedule is) about the right length, although we’re still of a view that if we could find one or two really strong international races that add value for the series and the competitors in February, that’s something we would look at. That would be an exception to the idea that we’re big enough as we’re sized right now. That would give us a reason to look at growing the number of events.”

Though an earlier start to the season outside of its home country interests INDYCAR, extending things at the opposite end of the schedule doesn’t.

“Generally we don’t want to go too long in September,” Miles continued. “We’d like to start earlier in February if it was out of the U.S.

“I want to see more people in seats and more impact in the markets where we race. I think that’s generally happening and we’ll continue to look for ways to improve on that.”

Following the launch of the 2019 schedule, focus turns to the 2018 season finale at Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 16. Once a champion is crowned, anticipation will grow until the work that went into the revised calendar is realized from March through September.